Blitzkrieg: Rants, Raves and Recommendations #3

A lot to talk about this time around.  First up, let’s take a look at what I’ll refer to as “Scion-gate” for lack of a better term.  It all started with a post by Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s hilariously outspoken J. Randall on the now defunct ANb blog, criticizing Scion’s sponsorship of various extreme bands/tours/fests (and Magrudergrind in particular) as part of their Scion A/V project.  However, some major backlash hit within a day of the post going online and Randall was forced to delete it. Apparently, lyrics such as “I don ‘t fuck bitches anymore / I make them watch me massage myself till I come in my hand / belt them with my payload across the mouth” are ok for ANb, but anti-corporate blog posts are a big no-no.  Although Randall took down the offending post and the ANb blog, it can still be read here.

I’m guessing this was mainly written just to provoke/fuck with people, (much like ANb’s lyrics) but at the same time I can also see where he was coming from.  Let’s be honest, the thought of corporations getting involved in underground metal is enough to make anyone suspicious, and Randall was just pointing out what many of us were probably already thinking, whatever his motivations were.  Still, I can’t help but think that maybe we should be grateful that someone with money is investing it in a scene that is typically poverty-level, even if their ultimate aim is to sell cars to metalheads.  Should we be looking a gifthorse in the mouth?  I’m guessing that someone in a high position at Scion’s ad/marketing department is a metal fan, and if that’s the case, it’s pretty awesome that they’re using their pull in such a manner.  Anyway, it isn’t like the bands that played last year’s Scion Rock Fest (Voivod, YOB, DRI, etc) have become big rich rock stars overnight by being involved with the company.

However, I do think it’s a shame that an artist was forced to cave due to industry politics/pressure.  It’s bad news for everyone when censorship occurs the minute someone gets pissed off or is forced to see/think about something in a different way.  I might not agree with everything I read, but I will always stand behind someone’s right to express themselves however they see fit, no matter what (provided it is within the scope of the first amendment).

(It should probably be noted here that I am a metalhead that works for a large corporation and drives a Scion.  This clearly makes me a great big sellout.)

Moving on to the realm of guilty pleasures, let’s talk about the new Dimmu Borgir album, Abrahadabra.  I’m not saying this pompous monstrosity is album of the year or anything, but goddamn if it isn’t the metal equivalent of a Summer blockbuster.  I’m talking Independence Day or Transformers for your ears.  I had to double check the packaging to make sure is wasn’t produced by Bruckheimer and Simpson.  I’m sure I’ll catch plenty of flack for liking this album, but I’ve always been of the opinion that it is perfectly okay for heavy metal to be big, dumb and fun every once in a while, and that is exactly what makes Abrahadabra worth listening to.

The album isn’t perfect.  Snowy Shaw’s clean vocals sound a bit like Jim Breuer’s Goat Boy character from SNL doing power metal at times, making me long for the days of Simen Hestnaes.  The guitars often take a backseat to the symphony.  Some songs are far more compelling than others.  But these drawbacks certainly don’t keep Abrahadabra from being entertaining.

It’s all well and good to listen to all the progressive, artistic stuff out there that is pushing the boundaries of what metal can be, but sometimes we all need explosions, big fucking guns, car chases and more explosions, and that is where Dimmu Borgir comes in.  I think liking this band definitely ties in with my love of things that are unapologetically over-the-top (see also KISS, most black metal bands, etc).  How much more over-the-top can you possibly get than Shagrath dressing up like Queen Amidala from Star Wars and messing around with a bathtub full of milk?  Check out the video for “Gateways” and you’ll see what I mean (the female vocalist freaks me out).

Have you been reading Slough Feg mastermind Mike Scalzi’s column for Invisible Oranges?  Whether or not you agree with the man’s opinions, it certainly makes for some interesting reading.  I certainly cannot fathom not enjoying black or death metal, but it was a confounding pleasure to read Scalzi’s thoughtful explanation and analysis of his disdain for the genres in his most recent installment of Bullpen Bulletins (I hope he cribbed the title from old Marvel Comics).  I think we need more actual musicians taking part in the writing/criticism piece of the metal scene puzzle and I hope Scalzi keeps this up for a long time to come.  Plus, it’s always nice to see someone with the stones to express an opinion that differs from the that of the metal masses, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.

You can also read more of Scalzi’s thoughts on all things metal via this recent interview conducted by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Speaking of the band formerly known as The Lord Weird Slough Feg, have you heard The Animal Spirits yet?  Is Slough Feg capable of making a bad album?  So far, the answer to the latter has been a resounding “hell no” and The Animal Spirits is no exception.  The album is a pure joy to listen to, and should put a big ol’ smile on the face of fans of traditional metal (as first observed by my colleague over at Spinal Tapdance via twitter).  Yes, this is a “fun” metal album (albeit in a much different way than Dimmu’s latest), packed full of catchy riffs, Scalzi’s tremendous vocals and just a hint of that earthy, folksy quality that has always set Slough Feg apart from the trad-metal pack.  The album is available from our good friends at Profound Lore (will they ever put out a bad release? I doubt it).  Expect a full review here at THKD in the very near future.

Alright, we’ve officially reached the part of the column where I admit to fucking up. For reasons I can’t quite comprehend, I did not pay Tribulation‘s The Horror the attention it so obviously deserved when it was released back in 2009.  It could be that it got lost in the sheer volume of releases Pulverised was sending me at the time (back in the good ol’ days of physical promos), or it could be that I wasn’t in a particularly death metal mood when it arrived in the post, or it could that I simply had my head up my ass.

Either way, The Horror is a slab of old school Swede-death that will rip your brains out of your skull and eat them for breakfast.  The songs are catchy and well-written, the sound a deadly overdose of that trademark rumbling buzzsaw riffage that only Swedish bands can authentically pull off.  Tribulation stands decapitated head and shoulders above just about any of the other new jack bands currently partaking in the death metal revival thanks to their craftsmanship and authenticity.  If you think the old school death metal thing is already played out, I strongly advise you to check these guys out and think again.

I haven’t heard a lot of good doom this year.  I know the new Electric Wizard is out there lurking still, but other than that I haven’t come across too many doom albums of interest in 2010.  Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places?  Southern Lord, who used to be my go-to doom label, seems like they’re only interested in bands that do the hardcore-meets-Entombed thing lately.  Don’t get me wrong, that Black Breath album was good, but personally I’d rather just listen to Left Hand Path.

So, what are the great doom albums of 2010?  I’ve been digging the new Salome (review also coming soon) lately and Triptykon‘s debut is certainly about as slow and heavy as it gets.  But I need more, more, more, and suggestions are certainly welcomed.

Lots of good stuff on the horizon here at THKD.  Salome and Slough Feg reviews, + an interview with StarGazer is gonna make for one hell of a Profound Lore extravaganza.  Speaking of extravaganzas, the THKD Best of 2010 is being lined up for the first week of January 2011.  I’ve also been toying with the idea of doing a monthly or bi-monthly THKD podcast starting sometime in the new year.  Don’t worry, I’ve plenty of surprises in mind between now and then as well!

I think that about covers it for this edition of the Blitzkrieg.  Stay tuned for more filth.

5 thoughts on “Blitzkrieg: Rants, Raves and Recommendations #3

  1. It’s hard to get upset or angry about commercialism backing up “extreme metal” when even the backlash politics and feelings of betrayed beliefs are themselves just another alternative lifestyle sold by the corporate machine. :)

    But yeah, outside of that, it’s fucking stupid and embarrassing. I’m not sure grindcore musicians are the correct models for political or economic beliefs, though. They can certainly be the model for lifestyle badges/supposed beliefs that will be dropped as soon as they’ve relinquished their scene value! Perhaps that really is the definition of “authentic beliefs” now: things that continue to hurt you and which you can’t get rid of, no matter what.

    It will not be long now before the entire concept of “resistance” or ACTUAL alternatives to absolute corporate domination and lifestyle politics will be seen as hopefully outdated or naive. “What alternative?” they will ask.

    /old man

  2. Looking forward to the StarGazer interview.

    I agree with you on Dimmu Borgir’s latest output. You’ll get elitists absolutely thrashing them these days, but the band fills a unique niche.

  3. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I guess you’re right about the relative lack of superlative doom records compared to other genres this year. Here are a few that I’ve been enjoying, even though basically none of them is a straight-up DOOOOOM album:

    – Unearthly Trance, “V” – I reviewed this a while back. Took me some time to get into it, as it’s much less immediate than “The Trident” and “Electrocution,” but it’s worth the digging.
    – Cough, “RItual Abuse” – Good record, but waaaaay heavy on the Electric Wizard influence.
    – Atlantean Kodex, “The Golden Bough” – I’ve been completely obsessed with this record since getting it a week or two ago. It’s doom metal, basically, but in the total epic/heavy metal mold of Manowar, Reverend Bizarre, Warning, Candlemass, hell, it even reminds me of Primordial at their most classic metal-sounding.
    – Thou, “Summit” – I was crazy sick of hearing the hype about this, but it’s actually quite good.
    – Coffinworm, “When All Become None” – Figure there’s enough doom in the black/filth/sludge cauldron to deserve the name, eh?
    – The Wounded Kings, “The Shadow Over Atlantis” – Also more classical-styled epic/heavy doom, but with a bit of the psychedelic haze of 1960s/70s British folk. Good stuff.

  4. Yeah, that Unearthly Trance album didn’t sound like what I thought it would.

    I love that you have a Scion, Josh. Ha!

  5. >I completely agree with you. What aspect of the underground hasn’t been turned into a commodity at this point?! Surely corporate backing is nothing to be concerned about, considering how far gone things already are.

    Well…at least it would be honest. :)

    I was thinking about this the other day…a few friends can’t even get together in their garage and jam…because that’s already a commodified genre that comes with its own ethics, practices, expectations. Good grief…

    You know that Adorno said the only escape from global capitalist hegemony is suicide… ;) And then the other day I was watching that (now infamous) video of the man from Sweden hanging himself in his living room and the entire page was filled with advertisements – some for dating sites…

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